Daniel Scruggs identifies the two most common causes of reproductive problems in cowherds as poor cow condition and decreased bull fertility. He says the solution to both of these problems requires attention to cows and bulls well before the breeding season begins. Scruggs is a technical veterinarian with Pfizer Animal Health who works with cow-calf and stocker producers in the Southeast.

Regarding cows and heifers, Scruggs says nutrition is critical before the breeding season. In fact, he says it is most important that females are in optimum body condition before they calve, so they will be more capable of breeding back in a timely manner.

“Before calving is the critical time to feed for condition. After cows calve, they put everything into lactation and it is difficult for them to improve condition,” he says.

Bulls also need special attention prior to the breeding season. Scruggs recommends bull fertility testing with a breeding soundness exam before bull turnout. Then, once bulls are exposed to the cowherd, they should be watched for any signs that might impair their ability to breed cows, such as lameness, preputial injuries, excessive weight loss or inactivity while cows are cycling.

As an animal health advocate, Scruggs also recommends producers work with their veterinarian to implement an effective vaccination program that helps protect the herd from viral respiratory and reproductive diseases.

But he concludes, “It doesn’t matter what your reproductive vaccine program is if you don’t get the basics covered of keeping cows in the right condition and making sure bulls are capable of getting cows pregnant.”

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